Children to be told it's good to talk in class

Government curriculum advisers are to issue guidance on using the literacy hour to improve pupils' speech in a bid to make talking as important as writing.

As The TES revealed earlier this year, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is investigating how to put speaking and listening at the heart of primary lessons.

Although the two skills account for a third of the national curriculum in English, they have been neglected by teachers who concentrate on literacy and feel less confident about teaching oral skills.

A recent study by Sheffield University suggested children's speaking ability got worse after two years of early education because they have too little exposure to spoken language. And evidence from the United States shows that underdeveloped oral skills can hamper understanding and comprehension of text later.

Literacy consultant Margaret Preston said: "The absence of speaking and listening from the national literacy strategy is beginning to be felt in primary classrooms. In particular, it would seem that pupils' competencies in literacy are being compromised by a lack of emphasis on talk."

The curriculum quango is now rewriting guidance on speaking and listening at key stages 1 and 2 which was first issued in 1998.

Sue Horner, QCA head of English, said it would "treat speaking and listening as a curriculum focus of its own".

Teachers will be advised about how oral skills can be taught as part of the national literacy strategy and how they can relate to other subjects. For instance, in PE a child could be asked to explain the rules of football.

The pupil is made aware of what kind of speech is best to describe the game and encouraged to use that style of talking when it is appropriate in other subject areas.

Teachers will be expected to teach children to appreciate different types of speaking which fit different situations. For example, the appropriateness of using conciliatory, less exact forms of speech when in conversation.

The guidance will also encourage staff to listen to children talk and plot their progress in mastering oral language skills.

Janet White, QCA principal subject officer for English, said: "Talk is the poor relation of writing at the moment. Most kids are pretty good at talking and we need to use this."

The QCA has just accredited a speech communication and drama exam designed by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. It will now be included in the National Qualifications Framework.

The London Association for the Teaching of English is holding a conference on the importance of oracy this weekend.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you